How to Facilitate Meetings Like A Pro – and Get Results (Part 1)
Are you ready to lay the foundation for leading engaging and productive meetings with purpose, clarity and confidence so that you can support agility within your teams?
The skills of facilitation and coaching are needed in our world. Over the past year and a half, we have adapted and found ways to be separate but connected.
In this two-part series, I want to share some strategies for facilitation that 100% still apply even if you are leading virtually.
As facilitators we convene and host. Our primary focus is to identify the desired outcomes and then create a space that fosters connection, authenticity, trust, and sharing. We can do this remotely, just like we do in the room.I’ll be sharing principles for how to do just that!
Improving How You Facilitate: What That Looks Like
Whether you are a scrum master, agile coach, project manager or team lead, if you are charged with launching a new agile team or helping an existing team move toward higher performance, chances are you would like to improve the way you meet in some way.
- You’re wanting to lead meetings that are valuable, that get people engaged, are productive, outcome oriented and are seen as a good use of people’s time
- You know the agile practices really well but you are struggling with the effectiveness of your meetings
- You want your meetings to be engaging and productive, and not a waste of time where people don’t want to participate
- You are looking for a structured process for planning and designing your facilitated meetings, something that helps you add order to your planning rather than just ‘flying by the seat of your pants’ when you’re leading a meeting.
- You want to lead highly effective, collaborative meetings with ease and confidence, which is something we teach in all of our programs at TeamCatapult
Mistakes You Might Be Making as You Facilitate
One of the challenges to facilitation is that when it’s done well you hardly know it’s happening and if the facilitator is really good you might not even notice them much at all. As a participant you will likely be caught in the topic of conversation with the other participants.
This type of scenario can create one of the greatest mistakes in facilitation…
1 Believing that you can just do facilitation after having seen others make it look so easy.
Facilitation is a professional discipline and it’s both art and science. Good facilitators make it look easy, like all you need to do is grab a marker and head to a flip chart. Or open up a Zoom line and invite people to start collaborating. In reality there is ALOT going on for a facilitator. It takes formal training and practice! Just like playing the piano or flying a plane.
2 Are you participating rather than facilitating?
These are two different roles and depending on what’s at stake for you or your team, it’s SUPER easy to blur these lines. We’re going to talk today about ways to become more aware of this.
3 Not having a clearly designed purpose and agenda before the meeting starts.
You need to define these before you get to the meeting. Cutting short the planning and design phase or not doing any planning at all. Typically, a skilled facilitator will spend 2.5 times the meeting time just planning and designing a session. (And if you’re facilitating virtually or hybrid it’s more!)
Do you treat every decision in a collaborative meeting the same way? Or seek ‘agreement’ from the group on the decision? This is another common mistake!
4 Lack of clarity, for yourself and your team, about the role of a facilitator.
Believing that your role in the meeting is helping the group reach a decision that has already been made.
You’ve learned the agile practices, but a few months into implementation the excitement is wearing off and you are not seeing the results you had hoped for. Understanding the agile practices is not enough, agile is first and foremost about communication, collaboration, trust, and learning to see and navigate the human systems.
Mistakes I Made When I First Started Facilitating
Can I be frank? I made mistakes when I first started facilitating. Here are a few of my mistakes.
I overly controlled the meetings. I would ask a question of the group and then ask them to write their answers on a sticky note. I was very careful to let people speak, but only when I called on them. I never would ask an open ended question to the group. I was AFRAID that I would either get crickets or that the group would go completely off topic and I would look like I could not control the meeting. I’m sure some of those participants in my early meetings might tell you that they felt ‘overly managed’ during the meetings.
I drove my own agenda. I was ensuring that people just went through the motions of what they were asked to do. But we left all sorts of other topics on the table that were never really addressed.
I only got input from the leader or meeting sponsor – not the team on what the meeting should be about. That led to multiple sessions where I got blindsided by issues that were surfaced during a meeting and I really had no idea how to handle them or what to do when they were surfaced. I was a consultant and feared looking stupid or not being seen as valuable if I had to get a group to come up with a solution. I needed to prove my value in some way.
Facilitation Done Right!
It wasn’t until many years later that I learned how to
- really connect a group
- have greater awareness of my own beliefs about the group and understand what a profound impact my beliefs had on my ability to work with a group
- to let go of control, to turn it over to the group,
- to really listen to what people needed or were trying to say.
These were profound shifts in my mindset which allowed me to move from just instructing people to write on sticky notes but never really get at the heart of the real issue, to leading meetings that really got at the heart of what was blocking the team, not just to support the team in continuing their same patterns.
You can learn this advanced facilitation process as well.
In the meantime, read Part 2 of this series:
‘How to Lead Engaging and Productive Meetings’